By Phil Hill
One of the benefits of participating in an interactive event, such as the recent ELI Webinar that Michael and I led yesterday, is that the learning goes both ways. During the webinar, one of the participants shared a link for a report from Duke University on their first MOOC, Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach, delivered through Coursera in fall 2012. And what a find that was – this is the most thorough description I have yet seen from a university about their experience selecting, development, delivering and analyzing a MOOC. Kudos to Yvonne Belanger and Jessica Thornton, the authors.
What follows are some key excerpts along with some observations, but for anyone considering participation in one of the xMOOCs – read the whole report.
Some of the key findings from the executive summary:
- Over 600 hours of effort were required to build and deliver the course, including more than 420 hours of effort by the instructor.
- The course launched on schedule and was successfully completed by hundreds of students. Many hundreds more continued to participate in other ways. The number of students actively participating plateaued at around 1000 per week.
- Over 12,000 students enrolled, representing more than 100 countries. Approximately 8,000 of these students logged in during the first week.
- At the time of enrollment, one-third of enrolled students held less than a four year degree, one third held a Bachelors or equivalent, and one-third held an advanced degree.
- 25% of students who took both Week 1 quizzes successfully completed the course, including 313 students from at least 37 countries. Course completers typically held a Bachelor’s degree or higher; however, at least 10 pre-college students were among those who successfully completed this challenging upper level undergraduate course.
- Students who did not complete all requirements cited a lack of time, insufficient math background or having intended to only view the lectures from the outset. Regardless of completion status, many students were primarily seeking enjoyment or educational enrichment.
- Most students reported a positive learning experience and rated the course highly, including ones who did not complete all requirements.
- The Coursera platform met the needs of the course in spite of being continuously under development while the course was live. Technical issues reported by the students and instructor were generally minor, of short duration and/or quickly resolved. Patience, flexibility and resilience on the part of instructor, Coursera students, CIT staff, and Duke University Office of Information Technology media services staff were key elements in the success of this course.
While this is Duke’s first MOOC, it is not their only online initiative. As referenced in the report and its link here, Duke is also participating in the Semester Online program with 9 other institutions, delivered through 2U.
Finally, this report offers lessons learned and broader implications for Duke’s online initiatives (http://onlinecourses.duke.edu/), which aim to:
- Promote teaching & learning experimentation, innovation
- Support strategic goals of global outreach, knowledge in service to society
- Enhance Duke’s reputation
The report describes the efforts and artifacts from the course development work, including how much time was spent by faculty and staff, how many videos created, etc.
One very useful aspect of this report is the amount of data collected on participants. While Coursera and others have been very eager to promote the “billions served” metric, one weakness of the MOOCs is the lack of actual public data on participants. This information should serve as a model for other schools.
Beyond listing the number of students completing the course (313 earning some form of certificate), the Duke report also shows activity summaries per week and persistence.
There’s much more in the report, including:
- Student motives for enrolling, expectations and experiences;
- Factors promoting student completion;
- Barriers to student completion; and
- The faculty experience.
I’ll let the report speak for itself on the majority of findings, but I would like to emphasize the value of this report. Think of the value if other institutions shared this amount of information publicly. If the course is open, why not make the process and results open as well? This might be too much to ask for, but what if an enterprising MOOC provider collected and shared this type of information across courses and across institutions? I could see a real opportunity for a MOOC provider outside of the big 3 (Coursera, Udacity and edX) to distinguish themselves by sharing open data on the courses themselves.